A 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard has been sentenced to five years in prison by a German court for aiding and abetting the murder of 3,518 people during the Holocaust.
The man had been charged in 2021 with “knowingly and willfully” aiding and abetting the killing of prisoners at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, from January 1942 to February 1945, according to the prosecutor’s office in Neuruppin, in the northeastern state of Brandenburg.
He was sentenced by the Neuruppin Regional Court on Tuesday, court spokeswoman Iris le Claire told CNN.
Le Claire said the trial was a complex process. “It was extraordinarily difficult to find an appropriate punishment because the acts took place a very long time ago, and the perpetrator is already very old. All of this had a mitigating effect on the sentence,” she said.
The vast number of people who died under the guard’s watch was also taken into account, Le Claire suggested. Under German law, people found guilty of murder are typically sentenced to between three and 15 years in prison.
“The verdict is a late compensation for the relatives and a very important sign from Germany,” Christoph Heubner of the International Auschwitz Committee told CNN on Tuesday.
Heubner, who followed the trial, criticized the number of years it had taken the German courts to press charges. “Now the wound of the relatives can be taken care of,” he said.
The convicted man had always denied being active in the concentration camp, according to Heubner.
The Central Council of Jews in Germany acknowledged the ruling. “Even if the defendant will probably not serve the full prison term due to his advanced age, the verdict is to be welcomed,” Josef Schuster, the council’s president, told CNN.
“The thousands of people who worked in the concentration camps kept the murder machinery running. They were part of the system, therefore they should also take responsibility for it,” Schuster said. “It is bitter that the defendant has denied his activities at that time until the end and has shown no remorse.”
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The man’s name has not been made public, in accordance with Germany’s privacy laws. The charges included involvement in the shooting of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942, and aiding and abetting the murder of prisoners through the use of poisonous gas, as well as other shootings and the killing of prisoners by creating and maintaining hostile conditions in the Sachsenhausen camp.
Sachsenhausen was built by prisoners and opened in 1936. Of the roughly 200,000 prisoners who passed through it, around 100,000 are thought to have died there. During World War II, the camp’s inmate population fluctuated between about 11,000 and 48,000 people.
An estimated 6 million Jews were killed in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Also killed were hundreds of thousands of Roma people, political opponents, homosexuals, and people with physical or learning disabilities.